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Part-time work



Directive 97/81/EC – the Framework Agreement on part-time working concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC (trade unions)


  • It seeks to implement the Framework Agreement on part-time work agreed between the European Union’s (EU) employers and trade unions (the social partners).
  • The agreement sets out to remove unjustified discrimination of part-time workers and improve the quality of part-time work. It also aims to help develop part-time work on a voluntary basis and allow employees and employers to organise working time in a way which suits both parties’ needs.


Who does it apply to?

It applies to part-time workers who have an employment contract or employment relationship as defined in each EU country. Those working only on a casual basis may be excluded for objective reasons following consultation between the EU country concerned and its social partners.


Part-time workers cannot be treated less favourably than comparable full-time workers solely because they work part-time, unless it can be objectively justified. Particular employment conditions may be subject to a period of service, time worked or based on the level of earnings, following consultation between EU countries and social partners.

Access to part-time work

EU countries and social partners should seek out, review and if necessary remove any legal or administrative issue which reduces opportunities for part-time work. A worker’s refusal to transfer from full-time to part-time work or vice versa is not sufficient reason for their dismissal.

The role of employers

Employers should fully consider:

  • requests to transfer from full-time work to any part-time work that becomes available;
  • requests to transfer from part-time to full-time or to increase working time where the opportunity arises;
  • providing timely information on the availability of part-time and full-time jobs;
  • measures to promote part-time work at all levels of the company;
  • providing appropriate information to worker's representatives about part-time working.


EU countries or social partners can introduce more favourable rules than those set out in the agreement. However, implementing the agreement is not a valid reason to reduce the general level of protection afforded to part-time workers.


It has applied since 20 January 1998. EU countries had to incorporate it into national law by 20 January 2000.


For more information, see Working Conditions — Part-Time Work on the European Commission's website.


Council Directive 97/81/EC of 15 December 1997 concerning the Framework Agreement on part-time working concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC - Annex : Framework agreement on part-time work (OJ L 14, 20.1.1998, pp. 9-14)

Successive amendments to Directive 97/81/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


National implementation measures

Report by the Commission’s services on the implementation of Council Directive 97/81/EC of 17 December 1997 concerning the Framework Agreement on Part-time work concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC, 21.1.2003

This report is complemented by 2 studies:

Commission Report - Implementation of Directive 97/81/EC concerning the framework agreement on part-time work concluded by UNICE, CEEP and ETUC (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) (2007)

Reports (Executive Summaries) on the implementation of Directive 1997/81/EC in Bulgaria and in Romania (2009)

last update 04.12.2016